Journey Under the Sea with Dallas Summer Musicals

LittleMermaid_Photo2.SMjpgInspired by the darker and more cautionary Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, The Little Mermaid was Disney’s first animated film to feature a newly empowered breed of heroine who gets the prince but doesn’t need saving by him. In a magical kingdom fathoms below, we meet Ariel, the little mermaid (played here by Chelsea Morgan Stock) who is tired of flipping her fins and longs to be part of the fascinating world on dry land. Joining her are Sebastian (Alan Mingo, Jr.), Ariel’s crabby sidekick. She defies her mighty father, King Triton (Steve Blanchard) to pursue the handsome human Prince Eric (Eric Kunze). To do so she must enlist the aid of Ursula (Liz McCartney), the evil sea witch, who transforms Ariel’s fish tail into human legs — but at what price?LittleMermaid_Photo1.SMjpg I’m not going to give you any more plot. If you want to know more, go see the musical. If you cannot get enough, rent Disney’s The Little Mermaid movie. My family was invited by the Dallas Summer Musicals to be entertained by The Little Mermaid showing now until March 2, 2014 at Music Hall at Fair Park, and we laughed and sang to familiar songs.

This production is more unique than other Dallas Summer Musicals productions because it is not a part of a national tour. It was produced here in Dallas! The story focuses on Ariel’s feelings of being an outsider in her own family. It also emphasizes King Triton and his relationship with his daughter Ariel – and was less about the love story. Triton learns how important it is to support Ariel in her dreams and tries hard to understand her. Now, this is such a timeless tale. I know my husband doesn’t want to think about this day when our daughter leaves home.

I should add that my daughter performed in this musical last summer. Here’s she is as a pink flamingo performing in the number “Kiss the Girl.”Pink Flamingos

Dive on in! Life is the bubbles, under the sea!

Run Time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including intermission)
Content Warning: recommended for ages 6 and up

The Music Hall at Fair Park
909 1st Ave.
Dallas, TX 75210

Business Travel: Silicon Valley, California

Business_Travel_Silicon_ValleyI am a firm believer in the idea of adding fun to a business trip. It’s not always easy to find free time when you’re traveling all over the place representing your company or brand, but business travelers should carve out time to enjoy themselves whenever possible. Fortunately, a perk for being a YesVideo ambassador was traveling to their headquarters in Silicon Valley. This brand knows how to work hard and play hard. The digital revolution transformed Santa Clara County, California, into the home of some of the world’s biggest technology companies. So, if you are here on business visiting one of these companies, here’s is what I would recommend for you in Silicon Valley.

Local Charming Hotel
Looking for a quality hotel in the Silicon Valley that has more local charm than big name behind it? Try The Plaza Suites in Santa Clara, California. It is a great value for the money with a ritzy-looking front lobby and comfortable suites. Located near the 101 freeway, it’s a great place to stay for business trips, a university visit or a weekend getaway.ThePlazaSuitesThe_Plaza_Suites_Pool

Amazing, Comfort Restaurant
Pedro’s Restaurant offers a varied and unique selection of authentic Mexican creations. Share their delicious Pedro’s Sampler Platter, which comes with mini beef chimichangas, sopes, taquitos and cheese quesadilla, served with with jalapeno cream cheese and guacamole. Their Sweet Corn Tamales are also a perfect way to start out your meal. Indulge in their Carnitas Tacos or Enchiladas Las Hadas for the seafood lover, which comes with snow crab and bay shrimp in two flour tortillas with salsa del mar and a sliced avocado.Pedros_Restaurant

Stan’s Donut Shop is a local favorite and a staple in the community since 1959. This bakery has got all your favorites and some more fun flavors for the adventurers. 😉

Getting There
Silicon Valley is well served with scheduled flights to San Jose International Airport from Southwest, American Airlines, jetBlue, United and Delta.

Getting to Silicon Valley
There are lots of different options. Local light rail is connected by a free airport shuttle bus, or you can get one of the scheduled bus services that service the airport as well. San Jose Airport connects to Caltrain by VTA bus line 10, a free shuttle between the airport and the Santa Clara Caltrain station and transit center. Various other local VTA bus lines also leave from this transit center. Taxis also serve the airport and can transport you to Sunnyvale for around $25 one way, for example. Limo transfers and Uber are also available from outside the airport terminal.

Must-See Sights
Silicon Valley is home to the company that basically powers the entire computer industry: Intel Corporation. You can learn all about the history and operations of this groundbreaking tech company at its sleek, ultra-cool museum with fun and interactive exhibits for all ages. It has big touch screens, a fun Name Machine to create letters in the binary code of 0s and 1s, and a kiosk where you can send digital composite photo postcards to friends. Although these are largely closed tech campuses, outside Google’s campus at Building 44, 1635 Charleston Road, you can do selfies with a big green Android, or a colorful Jellybean, Cupcake, Frozen Yogurt, Gingerbread Man and more sculptures of the company’s mobile operating systems. Still saving up for that race car? Get your fast and furious fix at K1 Speed, an indoor go kart racing track. And be warned: These aren’t your mother’s go-karts. They can get up to 45 miles an hour!1653652_10203009615419841_690413714_n

NextSpace for Getting Things Done
Traveling on business and need a place to work? It’s the sharing economy to the rescue! Coworking could be just the answer you’ve been looking for, and I HIGHLY recommend checking out NextSpace, a creative hub of economic activity, bringing together entrepreneurs and freelancers. Located in the Historic Lion Building on the corner of Second and San Fernando Streets, NextSpace provides a cafe, workstation, office and conference space for you while you are on business travel.

Dallas Caramel Co. Melts in Your Mouth

Dallas Caramel CompanyI recently received a package in the mail from The Dallas Caramel Co. Team, and oh what a sweet box it was. 😉 (Pun intended!)  Rain McDermott has been baking caramel in her kitchen since 2007. This year, she has finally launched her own brand, Dallas Caramel Company.

Dallas Caramel Company comes in 12 different flavors, as well as original caramel. The flavors include Bacon, Sea Salt, Orange, Cinnamon, Coconut, Espresso, Chipotle, Amaretto, Drunken Nut, Pumpkin and Chai. I tried the original, Chai and Chipotle, and they are FANTASTIC! Chai is full-bodied as if you were drink it. Chipotle is sweet with just a little heat. The original is a perfect base for all the above flavors, as it melts in your mouth and lingers the sweetness for a few minutes.

Dallas Caramel Company is a perfect gift for Valentine’s Day for your lover or your children! They also make a perfect gift for hostesses, clients, co-workers, business associates, out-of-town friends, get well and for “thinking of you” gifts.Dallas Caramel Co Flavors

Empire Baking Company Shares the Love this Valentine’s Day

EBC Valentine's Gift BasketFebruary is nearly here and that means Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. One of the things I love most about Valentine’s Day is enjoy some delicious treats. My favorite Dallas bakery, Empire Baking Company, has once again outdone themselves. They delivered an amazing basket of all their favorite Valentine’s Day homemade treats, handmade for your sweetheart, young and old.

The question is, “What do you want to say this Valentine’s Day?”

Empire Baking Cranberry Scones“We are not alone so let’s toast with a scone!”

 

Empire Baking Cookies“My heart belongs to you!”

 

Each of Empire Baking Company’s Valentine’s Day offerings is made from scratch with the finest ingredients including King Arthur™ flour, natural sea salt, Plugra™ butter, local pecans and Callebaut™ chocolate. The Empire team prepares and bakes every item with the same attention to detail our customers would for their family and very special guests.
Empire Baking Gift Basket EMPIRE BAKING COMPANY’S VALENTINE’S OFFERINGS INCLUDE:

  • Heart-shaped Shortbread Cookies (9 cookies) $6.25
  • Heart-shaped Linzer Cookies $3.25
  • Cranberry Scone $2.25
  • Cranberry Walnut Bread $5.99
  • Fudgy, chocolate brownie gift bag $6.00
  • Red Raspberry or Strawberry Jam $6.99

Share Empire Baking Compnay

Empire Baking Company
5450 West Lovers
Dallas, Texas
214-350-0007

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House Chocolate Molten Cake

Celebrating cupids and chocolate lovers alike, Chef David Holben of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House in Dallas, Texas shows you how to have his cake and serve it too! This dish is perfect for Valentine’s Day or National Chocolate Cake Day (January 27). Chef Holben’s secret to removing the Molten Chocolate Cake from the ramekin without breaking the center? Properly coat the ramekin with cooking spray and cocoa prior to cooking; then let the cooked cake rest for the 2-3 minutes before removing from the mold.Molten Choco Cake Ingredients
¾ lb semi-sweet chocolate
½ lb unsalted butter
1/8th tsp salt
¼ Tbsp vanilla extract
3 whole eggs
4 egg yolk
1 tbsp flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup dark cocoa powder

Cut butter and chocolate into small pieces and place in mixing bowl. Set bowl on top of double boiler with simmering water. Heat the chocolate butter mixture until melted. Do not over heat.

While chocolate is melting, combine whole eggs and yolks in the Hobart mixing bowl with whip attachment set mixer on #3. Whip until thick for 6-8 minutes. Add sugar to eggs and whip for 2 minute to blend.

Lightly whip the chocolate and butter with a whisk till smooth. Add egg mixture to the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Add salt to flour and fold flour into chocolate mixture. Add vanilla to the chocolate mixture and reserve.

Spray ramekins with pan spray and coat with cocoa making sure to cover all sides in the cups. Fill each ramekin with 8 oz of batter or ½ inch from top of ramekin. Then, refrigerate cakes. Chill cakes for 1 hour prior to cooking.

Cook in 325-degree oven for 16-18 minutes. Once the cakes are cooked, remove them from the oven and let sit for 2-3 minutes before unmolding from ramekins.

To present, transfer a warm cake onto a plate or platter of choice, then invert the ramekin leaving the cake on the plate and removing the ramekin. Accompany the cake with a fresh berry sauce or drizzle melted chocolate and dust with powdered sugar.DFDESH Molten Chocolate Cake

Top Romantic Places to Enjoy Valentine’s Day in North Texas

Valentine's Day 2014 North TexasValentine’s Day is coming up, and one of the best ways to celebrate with your special someone is to enjoy a delicious meal from a romantic North Texas restaurant or celebrate at a fun venue with the whole family. It’s so important to pick the right place! To help guide your decision making, here are a few establishments that have outstanding food and great vibes to foster the perfect date!

Asador will offer a three-course prix fixe Valentine’s Day dinner February 14 from 5PM to 10PM. Asador is also offering the same Valentine’s Day dinner for service industry and other professionals who work Valentine’s Day on February 15 from 5PM to 10PM. For $40 per person, guests will enjoy Chef Brad Phillips’ Valentine’s Day dinner which includes Tuna Tempura or Grilled Flatiron Steak. Reservations may be made through open table or by calling the restaurant at 214-276-4815.

Cantina Laredo‘s in North Texas have a Valentine’s Especialidad menu available February 13 through February 15, 2014. For $35 per person, guests can enjoy a choice of an appetizer like Ensalada de Mango or Sopa de Pimiento; a choice an entree like Camarones con Pasilla Mango Mole, Polla Ancho or Filet Negro Peppercorn; and, a choice of dessert such as Strawberry Buñuelos or Churros.

Cool River Café will offer a three course menu for couples at $135 per couple, beginning on February 8 and running through February 15. The meal includes a choice of starters like Caesar Calienté and Soup de Jour, Filet & Lobster Thermidor and White Chocolate Crème Brûlée Cheesecake. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 972-871-8881.

MAX’s Wine Dive Dallas will offer a five-course prix fixe Valentine’s Dinner for two for on February 14 from 4PM to midnight. For $100, couples will enjoy Chef Patrick Russell’s Why Not?! Valentine’s Day menu which includes East Coast Oysters and Lobster & Meyer Lemon Risotto. Reservations are highly encouraged and can be made by calling 214-559-3483.

The Second Floor Bistro – Bar‘s Executive Chef Daniel Tarasevich’s has created an amorous menu this Valentine’s Day and the following day from 5:30PM to 9:30PM. Delight in dishes like Pumpkin Seed Scottish Salmon, Porcini Dusted Monk Fish Cheeks, Shrimp and Grits and decadent N.Y. Blackout Cake with clementine mousse. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 972-450-2978.

III Forks is offering a special menu from February 8 through February 15, so that guests might choose the date they wish to celebrate. The special menu is $155 per couple and includes a choice of starter like III Forks Salad or Lobster Bisque, Two 6-ounce Filet Mignon accompanied by two 6-ounce Cold Water Rock Lobster Tails and finished with Chocolate Lovers’ Dessert. To make reservations, please call 972-267-1776.

WANT TO STAY OVERNIGHT?

Omni Hotels & Resorts is offering “Retreat to Romance” package. From a chilled bottle of Moet & Chandon delivered upon check-in to plush robes, music and romantic mood lighting set at turndown, every detail of the stay will be meticulously prepared for the perfect getaway. Prior to check-in, an Omni concierge (think Cupid) will personally call each guest to discuss ways to create the perfect stage for romance. Guests will also receive a $100 culinary and cocktail credit to be used at any on-property outlet or in-room dining and late check-out to savor every minute of their getaway.

The Renaissance Dallas Hotel will offer a couples getaway package for Friday, February 14, 2014. For $259, the package includes a deluxe suite for two, champagne and chocolate covered strawberries, $50 credit towards dinner at Asador or room service, full breakfast for two at Asador or room service, turndown service and use of all hotel amenities. To make reservations, please call 214-631-2222.

LOOKING FOR SOME FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY TO LOVE?

SEA LIFE Aquarium Grapevine wants your date, your spouse or the entire family to enjoy a variety of  love-themed activities in celebration of Valentine’s Day, Monday, February 10 through Friday, February 14. Two guests can enter for ONLY $28. With a $1 donation to Merlin’s Magic Wand, receive a Valentine’s Day card to leave in a special mailbox for your favorite SEA LIFE creature. The creature with the most Valentine’s at the end of the event will be crowned the 2014 SEA LIFE Sweetheart. Beginning Monday, February 10, create a Valentine’s Day card with a special poem to one of our sea creatures and post it to the SEA LIFE Facebook page by Thursday, February 13 for a chance to win a fun prize. Annual pass holders are invited to bring a friend for FREE February 10-14. On Friday, February 14 from 5PM – 7PM, annual pass holders will receive a complimentary bag of popcorn at admissions.

Did I miss any good ones? Tell which North Texas venue you think are best suited for Valentine’s Day celebration in the comments or on my Facebook page!

2014 Mazda 6 Zooms to the Top of MidSize Sedans

Mazda6The 2014 Mazda 6i Grand Touring is one of my favorite midsize sedans that I have ever test driven. Perhaps even at the top of the list. It’s really, really good. On the surface, it’s an attractive car with a relatively upscale interior and, theoretically, a dash of that Mazda zoom thing stirred in. In addition, it’s inexpensive and efficient.2014Mazda6I love the exterior. What a welcome change from the competitors’ mundane shapes *ahem, Toyota and Honda.* The Mazda actually looks new and fresh. The 2014 Mazda 6 drives well. Everything from the direct steering, brakes and suspension are perfectly tuned. It was a smooth drive through the urban streets of Dallas. Turn the wheel and the car is quick to respond; step on the brake pedal and there’s instant grab, and the suspension keeps things tied down and well controlled.Mazda6BackThe interior looks really nice, and it is very comfortable. Doors and dashboards are soft to the touch. I like the attention to detail with the red stitching on the leather seats. It really is a classy midsize sedan. In fact, everything you touch is covered in soft materials. The infotainment system was simple and straightforward – no complaints.Mazda6DashOverall the 2014 Mazda 6 i Grand Touring is much more interesting and engaging than anything else in the class. It’s just an honest what-you-see-is-what-you-get car. I highly recommend this front-wheel drive family sedan because it is remarkably balanced one at that.

SPECIFICATIONS
Model: 2014 Mazda 6i Grand Touring.
Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, direct gasoline injection.
Transmission: Automatic.
EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/40/32 mpg.
Base price, including destination charge: $29,695.
Price as tested: $32,845.

MasterChef Junior Casting in Dallas for Season Two

MasterChef-Junior-Casting-Call-Season-TwoI have some AWESOME NEWS! MasterChef Junior is now casting children ages 8 – 13 to participate in its second season. The Fox show — which was my family’s favorite this past Fall – hosted by Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, and Graham Elliot — is offering open call auditions in Dallas and Los Angeles on January 25, 2014. While the season premiere date hasn’t been announced yet, the FAQ says selected kids will need to be available for eight weeks of filming from March 10, 2014 to May 2, 2014.

Wondering if your kid has what it takes? Watch last season’s winner 13-year old Alexander Weiss blowing away the judges along with Dara. . If your kid can cook like that and is “demonstrably special,” definitely bring them to an open call. I know there is NO WAY that I could beat some of the MasterChef Juniors. 😉

Dinosaur Zoo LIVE! Travels to Dallas + Giveaway

Dinosaur Zoo LIVE!Journey all the way back into a prehistoric world to visit a remarkable dinosaur zoo! See this exceptional performance featuring a cast of large-scale dinosaur puppets brought to life by sophisticated design, electronics, and theatrical presentation. The talented team of zookeepers and rangers takes the audience on an interactive journey to introduce an incredible cast of dinosaurs that inhabited Australia (and beyond) including the adorable baby dryosaurs to the awe-inspiring giant allosaur and the hungry Tyrannosaur. These amazingly life-like dinosaur recreations, developed in consultation with paleontologists, are based on the most up-to-date science and specialist interpretations of fossil evidence.


Enter to Win a Family Four Pack to Dinosaur Zoo LIVE! At the Majestic Theater on Saturday, January 18th at 10AM, Prize is valued at $200. Erth’s DINOSAUR ZOO Live! brings an awesome array of prehistoric creatures to life on stage. Observe and interact with extraordinary, life-like dinosaurs in this entertaining and educational live show. Enter by Tuesday, January 14, 2014 for your chance to bring the Family to this one-of-a-kind event!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

2014 Mazda 3 Tours Efficiently Around Town

2014 Mazda 3 TouringMazda’s 2014 3 Grand Touring Hatchback proves that economical, fuel-efficient cars don’t have to be dull to look at or to drive. I truly just loved this car that it was hard to let go after test driving it for a week. From the sleek exterior to the posh detailed interior, this car is perfect for the modern mom!2014 Mazda 3 Touring Front2014 Mazda 3 uses the Skyactiv technology, which provides smooth acceleration. What I loved about driving the Mazda 3 hatchback is how much it feels like a serious sport sedan. Just press the Sport button for a more aggressive throttle setting and a delayed shifts for the automatic transmission. 2014 Mazda 3 Touring Back2014 Mazda 3 feels premium from the front seats forward, with materials that are major step forward for Mazda. I loved the attention to detailed on the stitch that was done with red thread and color-blocked seats with a chocolate and cream.  Another thing I really like in the Mazda 3 is how the brand hasn’t skimped on sound systems and connectivity. The Command Controller is took me some time to get used to using, with the center-console volume knob of Audi’s MMI. You can tab left and right between menu screens, and twist and click to make selections. 2014 Mazda 3 Grand Touring that I test drove included what Mazda terms the Active Driving Display—essentially a heads-up display that uses a little flip-up display screen atop the dash. It’s weird, but it’s effective in keeping your eyes on the road.

The Grand Touring I had for a week, averaging more than 28 mpg over 200 miles of driving. After driving experiences with a couple different Mazda 3 models, representing nearly three hundred miles of driving, altogether, I can say that the all-new 2014 Mazda 3 might be more athletic, more fun to drive, more efficient, and more charming in many respects. To me who love to drive, this a no-brainer.

SPECIFICATIONS
Model: 2014 Mazda 3 s Grand Touring hatchback.
Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder, direct gasoline injection.
Transmission: Six-speed automatic.
EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 28/38/32 mpg.
Base price, including destination charge: $26,495.
Price as tested: $29,185.